In Praise of the Informative Book Review

| 12/21/2007 4:44:04 PM

Before praising John Barry’s recent review of Simon Sebag Montefiore's Young Stalin biography for the Baltimore City Paper, I should probably disclose that the last biography I read was Chester Brown’s brilliant comic-strip biography of Louis Riel. Before that, there was something about Jackie Robinson and his imaginary stick-ball friend, maybe when I was about five years old? 

Perhaps I’m just not the biography-reading type. It’s hard for me to get excited about the secret lives of sports figures, politicians, celebrities, and Civil War generals. So forgive me as I pay Barry’s article perhaps the most underhanded compliment you can give a book review: It’s so well-written and informative that it could stand alone. I finished feeling educated, rather than teased. I felt like I didn’t need to go read Montefiore’s book. Barry capably details Montefiore’s insights into the life of Stalin, then gets down to the brass tacks explaining why this book is important.

So, thank you informative book review. And for biography-lovers, well, you can’t ruin a good book by disclosing the plot. After all, we knew more or less what going to happen to Stalin from page one anyway.

Jason Ericson

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